For a number of reasons, it’s often prudent to pursue alternative methods of settling property disputes, rather than seeking an outcome through the court system. The most common reason is typically that litigation is a more expensive process; however, litigation is often more time-consuming, contentious, and stressful, than alternative methods. For businesses and investors, another reason is that settling disputes via alternative methods avoids the possibility of publicity that may harm business reputations and relationships.
Collectively, the three primary alternatives to litigation are referred to as “alternative dispute resolutions”.
Arbitration: In this method, a professional arbitrator is assigned to the case. The arbitrator has the power to impose a binding decision, by which both parties must abide. Of the three methods, arbitration is the method that most closely resembles court proceedings, but it has the advantage of ensuring that the details of the dispute remain private.
Mediation: A trained mediator facilitates negotiation between the parties involved in the dispute. In contrast to arbitration, the mediator does not make binding decisions; rather, they help the parties involved come to an agreement. This method is useful because it provides a neutral forum for discussion, but as the mediator does not have the power to impose a binding decision there is the possibility that the dispute will not be resolved.
Negotiation: This method is less formal than either arbitration or mediation, as it simply involves parties negotiating before they start any legal processes. Negotiation might take place between the two parties directly, or between solicitors engaged by the parties involved. Again, negotiation may not necessarily result in resolution of the dispute, but it can help each party explain their position and clarify the nature of the dispute.
Legal aid for property disputes is subject to the same rules and regulations as legal aid for any other purpose: there are different levels of legal aid available, and the kind of legal aid a person can receive depends on the nature of their legal problem, as well as their assets and income.